Symbol for abortion opponents canonised

POPE JOHN PAUL II named six new saints yesterday, including a woman who became a symbol for abortion opponents because she refused to end her pregnancy despite warnings that it could kill her.

The Vatican has long championed the case of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 at the age of 39 a week after giving birth to her fourth child. Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumour in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term.

In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.

"May our era rediscover, by the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, the pure, chaste and fertile beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine calling," he said. John Paul also praised the examples of the five other people canonised yesterday, including two Italian priests and a Spanish monk who founded religious orders, a Lebanese Maronite priest and a wealthy Italian widow who opened her homes to abandoned children.

John Paul, who will be 84 today, read his entire homily and appeared in good form as he declared the saints to a crowd of thousands of flag-waving pilgrims gathered under a brilliant sun in St Peter's Square. Among the well-wishers on hand for the ceremony was Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, a Maronite Catholic, who was in Rome to honour Naamatallah Kassab Hardini, a Maronite who lived from 1808 to 1858 and is credited with healing the blind and lame.

Also canonised yesterday were Luigi Orione, a popular Italian priest and founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence and of the Congregation of the Little Sisters, Missionaries of Charity; Hannibal Maria di Francia, founder of the Congregation of the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus and of the Religious Daughters of Divine Zeal; Josep Manyanet y Vives, the Spanish-born founder of the Congregation of the Sons of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth; and Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, a wealthy Italian widow who, after all four of her children and her husband died, founded the Institute of Religious of the Holy Family.

With yesterday's ceremony, the Pope has proclaimed 482 saints in his pontificate.

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